When Anthony Martial burst onto the scene against Liverpool at Old Trafford back in the Autumn of 2015, there was an immense feeling of something special unfolding in front of the Theatre of Dreams. A boy of 19 years old, who not many had heard of before he had signed for Manchester United, had just scored a simply stunning goal to confirm the win against their bitter rivals.

The former Monaco winger-cum-striker had been bought by then-Louis van Gaal’s United for an initial £35 million, which potentially rose to £50 million if he activated bonus clauses such as appearances for both club and country and also being shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or.

Martial already received a fair amount of stick before even setting foot on the pitch, with one national newspaper running the headline: ‘WHAT A WASTE OF MONEY’. Sometimes fortune and fate favours you and it certainly seemed that way with the Frenchman’s debut, which quickly showed the wider fans who he was and what exactly he can do.

Over the next two years, Martial has impressed. While there are queries regarding his consistency – which is fair – the moments he does shine, they are as bright as a diamond. With all of the big, galáctico-esque signings Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, has made for the Red Devils, recruiting Martial was not only incredibly clever, but also showed an astute side of how they conduct business. It was left field, but is one of United’s better signings in the post-Ferguson era.


The first time that Martial was rumoured to be upset with his place in the United team was when Zlatan Ibrahimović was signed on a free transfer and took the number nine shirt away from the Frenchman. There were plenty of briefings about how annoyed the starlet was, but at no point was there a situation that could have unfolded in which he confirmed his departure.

However, this season’s grumblings do feel different. There appears to be more substance to them than before. With a lack of a starting position cemented, and falling down the pecking order thanks to the arrival of Alexis Sánchez, it is reported that Martial is open to moving away with Juventus eyeing the very talented international forward. The reigning Serie A champions are favourites to sign the attacker.

This current scenario mirrors a situation which happened with Paul Pogba many years ago. At the time, the midfielder, who rose through the academy, was aggrieved at the fact that Brazilian Rafael was playing ahead of him in the centre of the park under Sir Alex Ferguson and, along with his agent, Mino Raiola, demanded a move away. That transfer was granted and Pogba found himself in Turin with Juventus, where he went on to win a smattering of individual and team trophies, which included reaching a Champions League final against Real Madrid.


In the end, Manchester United paid a costly £89 million to bring back a player they already had on their books. The argument can be made as to whether the Frenchman would have developed in the same manner if he was in Manchester for all those years, but Juventus got a wonderful deal from the transfer and the Red Devils will have been disappointed that a youth player slipped through the net.

While Martial didn’t come through the academy, he was signed as a 19-year-old with all of the promise in the world. To let him go, albeit for a heft transfer fee, would be another mistake on United’s part given what Martial has already shown for the Premier League challengers, and also how high his potential is for when he approaches his prime years. It can be easy to forget that he is still only 22-years-old.

The sense of unpredictability Martial brings is needed at Old Trafford. Too many times this season have United struggled to break teams down who deploy a low block and get men behind the ball. In those instances, you have to employ players who can show individual brilliance and create something from nothing. The Frenchman has done that on a regular basis.

With a large proportion of his appearances coming from the bench, a return of 11 goals and 10 assists in 43 matches is a healthy contribution. It could be more, but there is a lot to be said about how forwards, and players in general, struggle to hit the heights expected of them when not playing consistently and gaining the vital match rhythm. All in all, Martial’s had another good year in Manchester.

There are no two ways about it: Anthony Martial must be kept at all costs by Manchester United. The future is bright for the youngster and it would be such a mistake if José Mourinho allows him to walk out of the door considering just how great he can become.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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